For the Record
From comments by Deputy Secretary of Defense John White at a special news briefing yesterday on Gulf War Illness:
Since last spring, when we first realized that American forces had been in the presence of Iraqi chemical munitions at Kamisiyah -- a weapons storage site destroyed by American forces after the war -- and that exposure was possible, this department in cooperation with the CIA and other agencies, has conducted extensive investigations.
We are reaching out to more than 20,000 service personnel who may have been in the vicinity of Kamisiyah at the time . . . We will continue our efforts to learn all we can about this incident and to investigate any similar incidents that are identified. We will spare no resource in this effort. . . .
Q: Secretary White . . . even acknowledging what you've just said, how do you respond to the blistering criticism that's occurred since this report came out today, in particular from Sen. Arlen Specter, who says there's a coverup involved at the Pentagon, and also from Sen. [Jay] Rockefeller, who says that the Pentagon and the military leaders in it show massive indifference to the issue?
A: Well, I haven't heard what you've just quoted, but I will tell you there has not been a coverup. . . .
Q: . . . Are you close to ruling out nerve gas as a probable cause for Gulf War Syndrome or any major illnesses that took place --
A: No. No, we're not. First of all, we haven't found any syndrome, but se\condly . . . our investigation continues with respect to the possible exposures to nerve gas, including at Kamisiyah. And in that regard, we have to presume, going in, that there was such exposure, until we can develop enough evidence to the contrary.
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